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Sunday, March 4, 2007


Complaints about officials ring hollow

LONDON -- Unless the Football Association brings in members of a jury from California, where no star can be found guilty it seems, Arsene Wenger, Dave Jones and Paul Jewell will have the book thrown at them -- albeit a small book.

Christopher Davies

Managers in English football think it is acceptable to insult match officials, doubt their honesty and get away with metaphorical football murder.

As a journalist who has spoken to managers regularly over the past 35 years, I have been told lies on a fairly regular basis, about transfers, team selections and other issues.

That's OK, though, because they are managers, though if their integrity was doubted in such a public way as they speak about referees no doubt all hell would be let loose.

There is much to admire about Wenger. On its day, Arsenal plays the best football in England, and he has brought some of the world's finest players to North London.

Yet too often in defeat he is Arsene Whinger.

A splendid Carling Cup final at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, which Chelsea won 2-1, will be remembered for five minutes of mayhem at the end, which started when Kolo Toure reacted to having his shirt pulled by Chelsea's John Obi Mikel.

Referee Howard Webb showed the red card to the pair for the subsequent scrap, plus, on the advice of an assistant, Emmanuel Adebayor who was also charged with reacting aggressively and failing to leave the field of play immediately after being sent off.

The F.A. also charged Emmanuel Eboue for hitting Chelsea fullback Wayne Bridge, which was not seen by the match officials, the fullback handed a three-game ban on Thursday.

Wenger is convinced Adebayor is the victim of mistaken identity -- the Togo striker was given a straight red card just minutes after coming on as a substitute.

The Frenchman branded assistant referee Dave Babski, who tipped off Webb about Adebayor, a "liar".

He also questioned why Eboue was charged with violent conduct while Chelsea escaped "unscathed."

Wenger said:"I feel Adebayor didn't punch anybody so when the linesman says he punched somebody, he lies. We have watched it on microscope and if you see Adebayor punching (Frank) Lampard I would like you to show me that."

Wenger added:"It is just a coincidence that you have 20 men who have a brawl and only the Arsenal players were guilty. It is unbelievable but maybe they (the F.A.) have their own way to do justice."

Only the Arsenal players were guilty?

Chelsea's Mikel was shown the red card for his part in the initial melee, while both clubs have been charged with failing to control their players.

Eboue is seen on video striking Bridge -- had it been vice versa the Chelsea player would have been charged.

Adebayor clearly lost his cool and there was sufficient in his aggressive behavior to warrant a red card. The Arsenal forward was involved in some physical contact with Lampard and had to almost be dragged off the pitch by Arsenal physic Gary Lewin.

To call any match official a liar is unacceptable, and it is disappointing someone of Wenger's eloquence and intelligence should stoop to this level.

The F.A. will no doubt fine him, but making a millionaire put his hand in his pocket barely qualifies as punishment.

Wenger's case was not helped when the F.A. clarified the situation regarding Adebayor.

A statement said: "Contrary to Wenger's allegations, the assistant referee's report does not claim that Adebayor punched Frank Lampard. The report states that Adebayor's attitude was aggressive, that he shoved into Ricardo Carvalho and that he aimed a punch at Lampard. It does not state that Adebayor struck Lampard.

"Adebayor was sent off for violent conduct on Sunday. His claim for wrongful dismissal was rejected by a disciplinary commission on Tuesday. He was also charged with reacting aggressively and failing to leave the field of play immediately after being sent off. He denied the charge and will have a personal hearing on March 6."

Even O.J. Simpson's dream team of lawyers would struggle to get Adebayor off this one.

But as disturbing as Wenger's "liar" outburst, is the way he has changed over the past year or so.

He was recently fined for a touchline row with Alan Pardew, then the West Ham manager and previously indulged in an eyeball-to-eyeball altercation with Tottenham's Martin Jol.

Two days after the Millennium mayhem there was sober reflection on the Cardiff chaos with Wenger saying:"Overall, we are sorry for what happened. When you do not behave like you want to, then you have to apologize."

On Wednesday Wenger's tune had changed considerably, accusing a linesman of "lies" when Adebayor's appeal for wrongful dismissal was thrown out.

And then there is Neil Warnock, the Sheffield United manager who is rarely one breath from a row.

"I don't think we've had a good relationship for years (with officials), even though we have meetings and such," he said.

Might that have something to do with the constant public criticism by managers (invariably the losing managers), much of it unfounded, in recent years?

Warnock continued:"I've been at hearings myself where linesman have not told the truth, when they've got together and done their statements. But that's human nature. They try and get enough evidence to make sure they hang you."

This from a man who cares so much about the game he was heard to shout from the technical area he hoped a certain player has his leg broken.

Dave Jones, the Cardiff manager, is a fully paid up member of the Buck Passers Club.

When Cardiff beat Leeds 1-0 last month, Jones overlooked the fact that Mark Clattenburg awarded his team a penalty, and said:"He tried everything in his power to give Leeds a helping hand.

"He's not good enough to referee in the higher divisions and he's not good enough to referee in this division. He should keep going all the way down, but I would feel sorry for all those in the divisions below who get him."

Many are sorry that have to listen to the ridiculous ramblings of Jones.

Unlike Jones, who manages in the Championship, Clattenburg is in the select group of referees, though each week three or four take charge of matches below Premiership level.

Meanwhile, Jewell claimed Phil Dowd could cost his club £50 million if it is relegated for not awarding a penalty at Arsenal. Putting aside the fact that a penalty is no guarantee of a goal, Jewell has yet to come up with a scapegoat for Wigan's other 14 defeats this season.

He pleaded guilty to improper conduct for his verbal assault on Dowd ("Dowd by name, dowd by nature," said Jewell who must have the only dictionary with the word 'dowd' listed), but requested a personal hearing to tell the disciplinary commission that he was right to say what he did.

In no other sport does the blame culture exist quite like it does in football.

Christopher Davies was a longtime soccer correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.

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